[Milton-L] obedience

Horace Jeffery Hodges horacejeffery at gmail.com
Tue Apr 8 23:23:35 EDT 2014


Perhaps "death" had no clear meaning to humans or angels since no one had
died - recall that Eve knows only that "death" must be some dreadful thing,
but admits she doesn't really know what it is.

Jeffery Hodges

Ewha Womans University
Seoul, South Korea


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Doctoral Thesis: "Food as Synecdoche in the Gospel of John and Gnostic
Texts"


Ph.D., History, U.C. Berkeley
M.A., History of Science, U.C. Berkeley
B.A., English Language and Literature, Baylor University


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On Wed, Apr 9, 2014 at 12:09 PM, Gregory Machacek <
Gregory.Machacek at marist.edu> wrote:

> Well, I'm willing to rethink the word arbitrary.  All I'm trying to get at
> is that God gives beings tests of obedience.  And the way one passes these
> tests of obedience is *not* to look for reasons and then do the commanded
> thing because one deems it reasonable but just to obey because God said so.
>  God's *therefore* may be succeptible to the rationalizing you give below
> (though my quibbles follow).  But the Son doesn't say, "I assent to your
> reason."  He says, "you say you want grace; let's see how we can make grace
> happen."  So let's take point 2.  You have God the Father in effect saying
> "Oh, what I meant by death was not anything permanent and irreversible,
> even though, I know, that's kinda the usual definition of death."  The Son
> *could* shoot back a "Strange point and new this death that really isn't
> death in any way that we've understood the term."  But he doesn't.  He says
> "You say death is a mode of disobedience-punishment that can be undone by
> mercy? Hey, you're God; you get to make that call."
>
> [Quibbles:  On 1) we're not dealing with degrees of punishment (though it
> eventuates in that) but in the availability of mercy to the two orders of
> being.  So if mercy is by definition not deserved, it could be extended to
> the rebel angels also.  On 3) presumably each order of being had the level
> of rationality sufficient to pass its test.  In fact God collapses the
> distinction you're trying to draw when he flatly conflates both orders and
> says explicitly that each was sufficient to have stood though free to fall.
>  On 4b) I'm not sure all of the angels have equivalent reasoning powers.
>  On Mt. Niphates, Satan creates a hypothetical where, if he'd been a lesser
> angel, he might have gone along with a greater one.  That says to me that
> he can conceive of himself (as this lesser angel) not having been the one
> who was intellectually-enterprising enough to come up with the idea of
> defying God (but being disobedient enough to go along with that smarter
> guy).  On 4a) when he gave the interdiction, he hadn't included an "unless
> you're deceived by a higher order of being" exemption.  In fact, deceit is
> irrelevant to tests of obedience; all you gotta do is obey; the second you
> make it a matter where deceit could operate, i.e. a matter of reasoning,
> conclude you then begin to fall.  If so, deceit can hardly serve as grounds
> for differentiating the disobediences.  On 5) the Son does concoct possible
> reason's for God's therefore; they come as a result of his obedience, not
> its cause.]
>
> Anyway, my main point is to propose that perhaps the aspects of book 3 in
> which many critics find troubling lines of theological reasoning are the
> way they are because what Milton most needed the Son to be was a foil to
> Adam and Eve's disobedience, i.e. needed him to be an example of obedience,
> and so, maybe working from Philippians 2:8, he built a theological
> superstructure in which Filial Obedience could be manifested.  Rather than
> being a freestanding theological disquisition subject to the expectations
> we might have of such (internal coherence, fidelity to one or another
> tradition of theological reasoning), it's
> theology-in-service-of-a-story-element.
>
>
>
> Greg Machacek
> Professor of English
> Marist College
>
>
> -----milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu wrote: -----
> To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> From: "J. Michael Gillum"
> Sent by: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
> Date: 04/08/2014 11:19AM
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] obedience
>
> I disagree with Greg's and Neil's (and Fish's) emphasis on arbitrariness.
> Milton's God is not the Calvinist God of pure will and power. Milton thinks
> of God as rational and reasonable. and Milton in PL interprets God's words
> and actions as reasonable insofar as the Genesis text allows. Yes, God in
> PL singled out a tree for arbitrary prohibition. He did so for a *reason*.
>  He had a *reason* to set up the test, and (because A&E had a
> frictionless relation to their environment in Paradise) the arbitrariness
> of the selection was essential to the test. We should not therefore
> conclude from the arbitrariness of that prohibition that arbitrariness is
> basic to God's nature and actions as represented in PL.
>
> God had a number of *reasons* to be more merciful to A&E than to the
> fallen angels.
>
> 1. Mercy by definition is not deserved, but punishment may be deserved in
> different degrees. The angels raised impious war in Heaven against the
> throne and monarchy of God, while A&E violated an arbitrary prohibition.
> The angels rebelled violently against a good order, while the humans did
> something that would have been morally neutral except for the prohibition.
> It seems reasonable to distinguish degrees of punishment. Adam and Eve are
> still punished.
>
> 2. God told the angels before their revolt that rejecting the Son's
> kingship would cause them to be punished with no hope of mercy. He made no
> such statement to A&E.
>
> 3. The angels had a higher order of rationality which would have made
> truth and right more obvious to them than to the humans.
>
> 4. Eve was deceived by a being of a higher order; Satan misled himself and
> then his equals.
>
> 5. As the Son in Book 3 interprets the Father's decree of mercy (144-66),
> he gives a whole list of *reasons* for it:
>
> ---The whole race of man would be lost [implicit contrast with the
> majority of angels surviving].
> ---The Father had loved mankind as his "youngest son."
> ---Destroying mankind would give a victory to Satan.
> ---That victory would raise questions about God's "goodness and thy
> greatness both."
>
> God's decree of mercy is *therefore* reasonable and not arbitrary. He
> does not include all this context in his decree, but--perhaps
> arbitrarily--chooses to mention only the factor of external temptation.
>
> Michael
>
>
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